Young Voices: a team effort

This article was put together by Young Voices campaigners during the 2013 Young Voices Global meeting in Kenya.

Young Voices is all about awakening young people to know and fight for their rights at local, national and international levels, so as to harmonize the various laws of the land in line with United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Young Voices campaigners have gained so much experience such as communication skills, leadership skills, and door to door campaigns. The most important change in the lives of Young Voices members is that they have greater awareness of how to campaign using the UNCRPD. Sheku Feika from Sierra Leone says that as a result many people with disabilities have found gainful employment and have access to education and quality health services.

Theogene Iyakaremye from Rwanda says that the factors that have led to these successful campaigns is that Young Voices groups have been able to meet with policy makers, government ministries and NGOs to ensure that the UNCRPD is being implemented.

Being well-trained as campaigner and gaining confidence has been really important for Nyamizi S.Mhoja from Tanzania who has worked with policy makers, for example government, local chiefs, ministries, Districts and city councils. Young Voices in Tanzania persuaded the Minister of Health and Social Welfare to set up a committee on the rights of persons with disabilities to monitor the implementation of the UNCRPD.

Young Voices will continue to fight for their rights by pulling their efforts together as a team and advocating and campaigning about negative attitudes.

Editors: Sheku Feika, Iyakaremye Theogene; Nyamizi S. Mhoja; Shalini Rana.

My story: Elizabeth Katta, Young Voices, Bo

Elizabeth Katta, Young Voices memberMy name is Elizabeth Katta. I am a Young Voices member from Bo, Southern Sierra Leone. I have a physical disability. I first came across Young Voices when I was working as a secretary for the Disability Rights Movement in Bo about four years ago.

At first I was a bit hesitant  to join. Little did I realise the dramatic changes that Young Voices would bring both to my own life and for people with disabilities in Bo. I have never looked back; I have been bold, challenging policies and working with my fellow campaigners to influence key decision-makers. As a result of the leading role I have played in the Young Voices movement I now have a job as an independent researcher with FORWARD-UK on women’s rights. I am often invited to participate in council meetings, community meetings and other forums. Life has really changed for me in Bo – thanks to Young Voices.

Posted in Sierra Leone

Young Voices campaigner reports for the Ecologist about the devastating impact of illegal sand mining

Ramatu Kanadu, a Young Voices campaigner from Sierra Leone, has written an article for the Ecologist about the impact of illegal sand mining in Sierra Leone. Ramatu recently took part in a series of citizen reporter workshops organised by Radar which has helped her to develop her skills as a journalist.

Ramatu’s article reveals that sand is being removed at an unsustainable rate from the beaches of Sierra Leone, and highlights the devastating effect this is having on local communities and the environment. You can read her article here.

In memory of John Conteh: a proud Young Voice

Young Voices member John Conteh at a music workshop

John Conteh, one of our Young Voices campaigners from Sierra Leone, has sadly passed away. Our thoughts are with John’s family and friends. John was a very active Young Voices campaigner, and was passionate about speaking up for the rights of disabled people. A talented musician, he hoped to one day become a ‘music superstar’. Young Voices in Sierra Leone will continue to work towards his dream of a just country where the rights and dignity of people with disabilities are upheld.

Young Voices group adds expertise to national policy meeting

The Young Voices group in Freetown made a presentation at a meeting to review the government’s social protection policy led by the Leonard Cheshire Disability West Africa Regional Office. Over ten policy stakeholders attended including delegates from the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Social Welfare, National Commission for Social Action, National Social Security and Insurance Trust and Amnesty International. Their joint purpose was to identify gaps relating to disability issues, and to address these loopholes to achieve full inclusion in the country’s social protection policy. In his presentation, a member of the Freetown Young Voices group used data from the 2010 disability survey report by the Leonard Cheshire Disability/University College London research team on the socioeconomic status of persons with disabilities in urban areas. Meeting participants then used this material in planning the social protection policy document.

Young Voices member endorsed as an election candidate

Eight people with disabilities, including one Young Voices member, were awarded “symbols” by political parties in the Kono district (equivalent to endorsement of general election candidates by political parties in Sierra Leone). This was thanks to a collaborative radio talk show organised by Young Voices members and people from other disabled people’s organisations, who spoke out for greater recognition of people with disabilities as political candidates. Elections will be held in November.

Young Voices campaigners across Africa chosen for conference

A total of eight Young Voices campaigners from Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe were selected through a very competitive process to participate in the Open Society Foundation’s African Youth with Disabilities Conference. This high profile youth event is one of the biggest run by a civil society group in Africa, and the foundation covers the entire cost of participation. Held in Nairobi during the last week of May, the five-day conference focused on implementing UN human rights instruments, and the use of traditional and new media for campaigning. The members also held informal meetings with each other to develop common advocacy positions across borders and to film and write daily diaries of their experiences.

Legislative success for Sierra Leone Young Voices

The Sierra Leonean parliament enacted the country’s first disability bill thanks in part to campaigning by Young Voices groups. Since he is now considered a youth expert on disability and human rights, Young Voices president Seray Bangura represented the groups through national TV and radio interviews on the day the bill was passed and became the Disability Act.

National disability organisation recognises Young Voices’ contribution

Sierra Leone’s umbrella body for disability organisations, the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI), recognised Young Voices as a group whose work complements their national advocacy and campaigns programmes. As a result, the two groups have now held several successful meetings together to create and strengthen partnerships for shared campaigns. In October 2010 SLUDI jointly organised a National Disability Conference with Young Voices and representatives of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the country. This resulted in the adoption of a national constitution for DPOs and a recognised National Youth Forum on Disabilities in Sierra Leone. SLUDI also invited Young Voices to celebrate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities in Bo, Kabala, Kono and Freetown.

City building becomes accessible through Young Voices campaign

The Chiefdom Hall (a local government building) in Kabala, Sierra Leone, now has ramps thanks to campaigning by Young Voices in the city. The ramp was installed as a direct result of meetings of the Kabala Young Voices group with the head of the city’s police and local paramount chiefs (locally elected leaders). In meetings the Young Voices members explained Articles 13 and 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which focus on justice and accessibility, and the paramount chief of Wara Wara Yagala committed himself to installing the ramps. He and other local stakeholders have also promised to consider disability issues in local development.

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